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Albany activists planning local Women’s March on Saturday

albnay march

Plans have been announced via social media for Women’s March Albany from 8 to 10 a.m. Jan. 21, starting at Ocean View Elementary, 1000 Jackson St. in Albany.

 

ALL are welcome to march to show support for the rights of women, children, men, minorities, the LGBTQ community, immigrants and undocumented people, the environment, and anyone else who may feel threatened by our new administration.

Think globally, act locally.
Start off your day of demonstration close to home in Albany. We’ll walk from Ocean View Elementary School at 1000 Jackson St. to the Memorial Torch at the corner of Solano and Key Route. We’ll start early — 8:00 am — so you will be able to join other marches in the Bay Area, if you would like to.

Wear Pink (for Women’s Rights) or Purple (for anti-bullying) or Rainbows (for LGBTQ rights) and a Pussy Hat!

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Feel free to make signs that express your beliefs. Please be aware that we would like this to be welcoming to all families (so maybe limit the profanity . . . ). Meet at 7:30 am to make signs. Bring posterboard, pens, etc.

We are looking forward to gathering together as a community to support each other in the spirit of love, acceptance, and hope.

EVERYONE is invited, including people of all ages, all genders, all sexual preferences, all races, all religions, and all political viewpoints. Please feel free to invite local friends!

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Richmond: High school student’s Christmas light show worth a visit (video)

 

RICHMOND — One of the most impressive Christmas displays you’ll see this season requires a trip to Nome — not the Alaskan city, but Nome Street, a small dead-end street in East Richmond Heights. That’s where Armando Epifani, a 17-year-old high school student, has an elaborate display that sychronizes lights and other effects — including water spouts and flame — to music.

The professionally done “Lights on Nome” production is all the doing of the young man, his father said, adding, “All I do is pay for the electricity.”

As the video below shows, the display incorporates elements of a nighttime show at Disneyland and maybe the fountains outside the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas.

Watch for yourself and consider making the trip to see it in person. Even though Christmas is over, the display continues through Jan. 6 and is in action on the hour from 5 p.m. to midnight.

 

nome street map

 

lights on nome1

 

 

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Similar scenario to 1991 Oakland firestorm played out in 1913

claremont hotel 1920s

An October fire fanned by high winds and fueled by abundant eucalyptus trees and tall grass sweeps through the Oakland-Berkeley hills and threatens the landmark Claremont Hotel. That describes the events of the disaster known as the Oakland Firestorm of Oct. 19, 1991 that is coming up on its 25th anniversary.

It also sums up a fire that broke out on Oct. 6, 1913 in the Berkeley hills that overwhelmed the young city’s firefighting capability. The Claremont residential district in Berkeley had been established for less than a decade and was still developing. The hotel itself had been under construction for a number of years, stalled at points by financial issues.

“Following an architectural competition, ground was broken in 1906 for the Claremont
Hotel, designed by Charles W. Dickey,” the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association writes on its website. “It was not only to be a glorious destination site, seen from all vistas around the Bay, but it was also to be a large garden park enhancing the environment for the building of beautiful homes.”

According to Historic Hotels of America, “construction was held up — first by the earthquake of 1906 and then subsequently, the Panic of 1907.”

The fire was reported by a resident around noon, the San Francisco Call reported, and Berkeley soon had to seek assistance from Oakland in battling the blaze. (Berkeley’s department had been a full-tme professional company for less than a decade, formed in 1904 after City Hall burned down.) Also assisting were “hundreds of residents.”
claremont hotel fire 10 6 1913
Coverage from the San Francisco Call
of the Oct. 6, 1913 fire that swept
through the hills, a scenario similar
to what happened on Oct. 19, 1991.

The blaze threatened not only the hotel, described by the Call as “one of the largest framed hostelries of the west,” but homes in the fashionable Claremont neighborhood. The fire did not claim the hotel, but did spread unchecked along Tunnel Road through the largely unpopulated hills, “fanned by a high wind” and burning down “trees set out by the People’s Water Company (a forerunner of EBMUD) five years ago.”

The fire burned several hundred acres in the hills, according to the Call account, but no property damage or injuries were reported other than the loss of the trees.

The hills would be much more developed by the time of the 1991 firestorm that claimed 25 lives and destroyed 3,642 homes, with damages estimated at $1.68 billion. Some claimed at the time that resources were diverted to from fighting that fire to prevent its spreading to the Claremont Hotel. Others say that if the fire had reached the Claremont, it would have more easily spread into lower Berkeley and possibly reached the UC Berkeley campus.

The Claremont finally did open in May of 1915, in time to serve tourists to the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

claremont opening 05 03 1915

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Ortman family history in Berkeley goes beyond ice cream

ortmans ice cream berkeley
Ortman’s Ice Cream Parlor at Solano and Colusa avenues.

ortmans1

Since it’s a holiday weekend in July, it seems like a good time to remember a favorite ice cream name of the past — Ortman’s.
Bill Ortman was a Berkeley native and a veteran of World War II who opened an ice cream parlor on Solano Avenue after the war, moving it to Solano and Colusa avenues in 1950, where it continued until 1993. The location is now a Starbucks.
There was a second Ortman’s location at the top of Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito that was popular, but did not last as long as the Berkeley parlor.
The Ortman family has a long association in Berkeley, in particular with the dairy business in the city’s early days, as columnist Hal Johnson explains below in a 1943 column in the Berkeley Gazette.
In addition, as noted in Ortman’s 2012 obituary, “Bill’s father (Charles) was a Lieutenant with the Berkeley Fire Department, and was killed in 1939 while saving three children from a burning house.”

Steve Finacom of the Berkeley Historical Society wrote about the fire and rescue in 2014 in his “Berkeley: A Look Back” column in the Berkeley Voice:

“First Lieutenant Charles J. Ortman, 45, is dead today following his heroic rescue of three young children from the smoke-filled home of Mr. and Mrs. George G. Rogers, 1837 Rose Street, shortly after 8:30 last night, ” the Berkeley Gazette reported Feb. 2, 1939.
Ortman lived across the street from the Rogers home. He was off duty and at home, when “the fire tapper in the house sounded” — we’ll assume that was a device to alert off-duty staff that there was an alarm — and he heard on his shortwave radio that the call came from his block.

Rushing outside, Ortman found his neighbors on the street and smoke pouring out of their front door. Entering the house he rescued their 4-year-old granddaughter and her siblings, twin babies, just as on duty firemen arrived. Ortman then grabbed a hose and led the effort to put out the fire in a bedroom. Inspecting the attic, he died of an apparent heart attack.

City flags flew at half-staff for the Berkeley native, a member of the department since 1912.

The funeral took place on Feb. 3, starting at Berg’s Funeral Home, 1936 University Ave.

Traffic was stopped as the cortege moved up Shattuck to University, then north to St. Mary Magdalene Church, where a requiem mass was held.

Ortman was survived by his wife and two children. He was, the paper said, one of 112 fire department staff in 1939.

ortman dairy 1902
A 1903 ad for the Peralta Jersey Dairy owned by Henry Ortman.

Below is the 1943 column by Hal Johnson about Henry John Ortman’s North Berkeley Jersey Farm. It recounts a 1903 fire at the dairy that was extinguished with buckets of milk and may have inspired Bill Ortman’s father to join the Berkeley Fire Department.
The Henry J. Ortman House is not only still standing at 1824 Rose St., it was selected for one of this year’s Preservation Awards from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association commending its renovation.

ortman dairy 1943a

peralta park cow grazing
A cow grazes in North Berkeley with the Peralta Park Hotel in the background.

ortman dairy 1943b

ortman dairy 1943c

ortman dairy 1943d

ortmans 1954150
An ad for the El Cerrito location of Ortman’s 1954.

ortmans 1959
A 1959 ad for Ortman’s in El Cerrito.

ortman2
Solano at Colusa shortly after Ortman’s became a Starbucks location.

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Must-see video: Young women ride ostriches at El Cerrito greyhound track in 1934

eckc ostrich 1934

The operators of the El Cerrito Kennel Club, the greyhound racetrack that operated in the city from 1932 to early 1939, were masterful with promotions to keep the 10,000-capacity stands full. A typical evening could feature 11 races and added attractions such as boxing or wrestling matches, a post-race dance in the clubhouse or drawings for a new Plymouth.

One of the most memorable promotions came in 1934, the track’s third year of operation, when the attractions included a drawing for a Plymouth sedan, a race featuring the “famous Hollywood monkey jockeys” riding greyhounds in a race (and presumably wearing jockey silks), and the main attraction, “pretty girls riding the famous racing ostriches.”

The ad for the day is pictured here, but now — thanks to youtube and a company called Critical Past — there is video online of old film footage showing young ladies jumping onto the ostriches and holding on for dear life as the birds run around the track. If you look closely in the background, you can catch a glimpse the historic 1907 Pierre Allinio house, which is now for sale.

Another attraction at the El Cerrito dog track pitted ostriches against race horses, but no video of that event has surfaced … yet.

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Richmond fundraiser being held April 29 to support family of slain officer

FUNERAL FOR OFFICER GUS VEGAS

The Richmond Police Officers Association is hosting a fundraiser on April 29 at Salute Restaurant to assist the family of Officer Gus Vegas, who was fatally shot Feb. 11 at his home in Vallejo. The announcement for the fundraiser is below.

OFFICER GUS VEGAS MEMORIAL FUNDRAISER

On February 11th, 2016, Augustine “Gus” Vegas, a City of Richmond Police Officer was murdered at his home. Officer Vegas was the sole provider for his family, which included 10 children and 20 grandchildren. He served the City of Richmond and its citizens for over 15 years. He was a diligent and kind police officer.

Salute’s Restaurant owner, Menbere Akilulu, Mechanics Bank and the Richmond Police Officers Association have collaborated to provide a fundraiser for Augustine’s family. Please stop by and enjoy wine and appetizers provided by our own Richmond businesswoman, Menbere Akilulu. The event is on Friday, April 27th, between 4-7 PM. 100 Percent of all other sales during this time will be donated to the Vegas family. Hope to see you there!

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TBT: Once-familiar El Cerrito building had a link to black Americana

spring chicken

Winner, winner, chicken dinner —
Here is the ID of the once-familiar building in El Cerrito and its background, which we asked about last week. The building is best known (see photo above) from its decades attached to El Cerrito Mill & Lumber, with the lettering growing more faded as the years passed.

The building originated around 1929-30 as Mammy’s Place, a plantation-themed attraction for travelers on the newly rerouted Lincoln Highway (San Pablo Avenue), just south of Cutting Boulevard, “near the large Carquinez Bridge sign,” according to the menus given out to customers as a souvenir. The proprietor was Harry Bottger, who may have also operated the food concession on the Richmond-San Rafael ferry.
Mammy’s Place boasted a “fine hardwood dance floor and music,” though the establishment once ran afoul of the authorities over the use of its jukebox, according to news accounts of the day.
Bottger later opened another restaurant on the southern end of San Pablo in El Cerrito and Mammy’s closed.
With demand for housing at a peak during World War II, contractor Elmer Freethy purchased what was then El Cerrito Lumber at 1206 San Pablo Ave. (now 10812 San Pablo Ave.) from John Carrick to secure a supply of building materials. At some undetermined point, he also purchased the abandoned Mammy’s Place building and had it moved and attached to El Cerrito Lumber. There was a sentimental attachment. Freethy, in a 1990 interview about the “chicken dinner” building, referred to it as “the chicken shack,” and said he had purchased and moved the building because he used to take his future wife dancing there.
Elmer and Marjorie Freethy were married in 1930 and he started his contracting business the next year, according to an El Cerrito Wall of Fame profile in the city newsletter. One of his early big contracts was construction of El Cerrito High School from 1939-41.
The old chicken dinner building was torn down when El Cerrito Mill & Lumber underwent a major remodel by Elmer’s son, Jack Freethy, in 1996 as noted in this earlier post. The business, which had grown over time to include major portions of several blocks, closed in 2000 and the remodeled original El Cerrito Lumber building, redesigned in Victorian style, was moved across San Pablo and is now the Vitale Building.
Mammy’s Place is long gone and even though original owner Bottger was of European extraction, those free menus once given out to travelers are now rare and prized pieces of black Americana. A menu listed on eBay about in 2011 sold for more than $120.
Elmer Freethy died in 1998. Marjorie Freethy, a native of Point Richmond, died in 2013 at age 105.

mammy1a

mammy2

elmer freethy el cerrito lumber
Elmer Freethy at El Cerrito Lumber.